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Are Marigolds Deer Resistant?

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gardener notes Gardeners Notes
Plant type: annuals
Deer resistant: somewhat
Our plant hardiness zone:
New Zealand: subtropical
U.S. Zone 10b

The marigold is a vibrant, cheerful flower that adds a splash of color to any garden or outdoor space. The plant has been valued for its beauty and medicinal properties for centuries, and is a popular choice for gardeners around the world.

We mainly plant marigolds because they can help our crops. They act as a natural pesticide, improving the condition of the soil. Marigolds also attract beneficial insects, such as bees and other pollinators.

We are currently growing French marigolds (Tagetes patula).

tagetes patula seeds

French marigolds reportedly have been proven to be the most effective for pest control, specifically against soil nematodes. For whiteflies - no effect, we’ve had both tomato plants infested while a dozen of plants were growing right underneath them. But after dealing to those (again, and again), our tomatoes have been doing well and have reached close to 2 meters high, currently loaded with ripening fruits.

Deer And Marigolds: Can They Co-exist?

There are many conflicting reports on the net about whether deer eat marigolds. Some claim that tagetes are so hated by the deer that they possess repelling qualities, and if you plant enough marigolds deer won’t step foot into your garden. Others are warning that deer are attracted to marigolds and offer tips on how to protect them.

deer sniffing marigold flowers

Where’s the truth? Let’s ask our own, local deer, whether they like our own, locally grown French marigolds.

The location where we've planted marigolds is out of reach for our deer (otherwise nearby tomato plants would stand no chance), so we had to deliver a few freshly cut marigolds in a bottle to our animals. Watch.

Do deer eat marigolds?

So our plant tasting session ended in 50/50. Two out of four flowers have been devoured, while the other two are still laying in the garden with 3 deer wandering around them, ignoring their presence, 2 hours later. What does this mean?

In our experience, this means deer are not crazy about this plant. They may nibble a bit for the hell of it, when there’s nothing better or they’re bored. But they’re not strongly attracted to it in particular. 

id="french-marigolds" id="deer-and-marigolds" id="local-deer-experiment" id="planting-marigolds" id="other-deer-resistant-plants" id="fencing-for-deer-protection" id="conclusion"

Are Marigolds Deer Resistant?

Would we feel safe planting a bunch of French marigolds where deer are often present? Well… maybe… Seeing how they’re very easy to care for and will often thrive with minimal attention. But we’d also expect deer to steal a few flowers now and again.

deer sniffing around marigolds

There are other varieties of marigolds, besides French and African marigolds (Tagetes patula and Tagetes erecta), which are widely considered deer resistant for posessing a strong scent and bitter flavor. But one variety, the signet marigold (Tagetes tenuifolia), apparently stands out, having a sweeter citrus scent and flavor. As we've covered before, deer eat citrus fruits. So no wonder signet marigold should be least deer resistant of them all.

Certainly if the marigolds are the only thing you’re growing in your garden, we’d speculate deer wouldn’t cross oceans or climb mountains to get to your ‘buffet’. 

Can Marigolds Help To Repel Deer?

Theoretically, if there’s many-many fragrant marigolds in your backyard, and they’re able to cloak the scents of other plants that deer might enjoy, plus somewhere around the corner - there’s a fruit garden - a more inviting site, it could work. It would depend on many factors, for example, how hungry are the deer in your area, if there was a dry season that left deer with few options, how the wind is blowing etc.

So again, it's a long shot, but if you wanted to grow marigolds to repel deer, you would need to plant a lot of them. In order to overpower any appealing fragrances, there would have to be a ton of marigolds and/or other plants deer consider rather repugnant. Think lavender, rosemary, mint, basil and geraniums.

marigolds deer resistant

As we’ve mentioned many times on this website, fencing is the only surefire way to protect your plants from deer.

But barring that option, sowing some deer resistant plants may be the next best thing. Just prepare yourself that there could be disappointments, because deer are generally not picky eaters and hungry deer eat anything. Read our post how to keep deer out of your garden!

What Are Some Other Deer Resistant Plant Options?

If you're wondering, what plants do deer hate the most, you're not alone. Plants with strong scents or textures that deer find unpalatable are often the most effective at deterring them, as well as those with toxic components. Examples include nasturtiums, calla lillies, mint, hyacinth, freesias and ornamental grasses. However, it's important to note that there is no such thing as a completely deer-proof plant, and some deer may still choose to eat plants that are known to be less attractive to them, indcluding marigolds, obviously.

In conclusion, the relationship between marigold plants and deer remains somewhat enigmatic. While French marigolds, known for their pest control qualities, may deter deer to some extent, the evidence suggests that deer are not entirely repelled by them. Our local experiment showcased a mixed response from deer when presented with marigolds, indicating that these flowers might not be the ultimate deterrent against deer intrusion. They might not be the best deer attractant - that much is certain.

Considering the broader context, there are indeed other varieties of marigolds and various deer-resistant plants that may offer better protection for your garden. However, it's crucial to recognize that deer are adaptable creatures, and their eating habits can vary based on factors like local food availability and hunger levels.

Ultimately, while marigolds can play a role in your garden's defense against deer, relying solely on them may not be foolproof. For more comprehensive protection, exploring alternative measures like fencing and planting a variety of deer-resistant plants is advisable.

Last modified 19 September 2023 at 01:31

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